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Kawakatoose woman found deceased in B.C.; family requests privacy

Kawacatoose First Nation Chief Tom Dustyhorn says Chelsea Poorman's family and community refuse to accept the Vancouver Police’s findings in the case.
The remains of Chelsea Poorman have been discovered outside of an empty house in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood of Vancouver.

KAWACATOOSE FIRST NATION — The family of the late Chelsea Poorman has asked the public and media to respect their request for privacy since learning she was found deceased in Vancouver last month.

Kawacatoose First Nation band member Chelsea Poorman was last seen in Vancouver on Sept. 6, 2020. After several months of searching, her remains were found in Vancouver on April 22 by contractors working on a vacant home, states a release issued by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous nations on behalf of the community and leadership of Kawacatoose First Nation

“Despite recent reports and media statements made by Vancouver Police, the circumstances surrounding her disappearance and death, and how she ended up in an area surrounded by multi-million-dollar homes when she had some mobility issues is highly suspicious,” stated the release. “Chelsea’s remains were found not fully intact and some of her remains are still missing.”

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) says her remains were discovered outside an empty house in the Shaughnessy neighbourhood late last month. 

"This is not the outcome anyone wanted. We always hoped Chelsea would be found alive, and our sympathies go out to everyone who knew Chelsea, loved her, and hoped she would come home safely,” said VPD spokesperson Steve Addison.

VPD's Missing Persons Unit launched an investigation that was later turned over to the Major Crime Section, VPD said in a news release. A senior investigation team continued to look for Chelsea until she was discovered on April 22 by contractors working at a vacant house near Granville Street and West 37th Avenue.

The VPD has received the finding from the B.C. Coroners Service investigation. 

"Investigators believe Chelsea likely died on the property the night she disappeared or shortly thereafter, but went undiscovered because the house has been vacant for years," said police.

According to the VPD, the death is not suspicious.

The family of Chelsea Poorman is not satisfied with the explanation, however, and included a statement in the FSIN news release.

“We, the Poorman family, are heartbroken about the loss of our beloved Chelsea. We mourn her spirit, her beautiful and kind spirit that touched the lives of so many. We are doing the logistical and spiritual work necessary to bring her home to Kawacatoose First Nation, and let her spirit go to rest in a good way,” said Leslie Poorman, family spokesperson. “Thank you to all those who have offered their love and support. Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers in this time for the difficult days that lay ahead. We understand that there are unanswered questions, and that many people including our own community members, the media, and the public want to know the answers. We all want answers.”

Kawacatoose First Nation Chief Tom Dustyhorn said, “Chelsea was loved by many people. Her family and our community are grieving a very devastating loss and we refuse to accept the Vancouver Police’s findings in this case.”

He says her death has been swept under the rug in another example of the continued systemic racism against Indigenous women by police.

“We must remember that it was only 10 years ago in 2012, following the B.C. governments inquiry into the Pickton investigation, that found there were blatant failures and prejudice by police in their investigations involving missing Indigenous women,” said Dustyhorn. “There are more questions than answers by this grisly discovery. Our community will continue to support the Poorman family in their search for answers and justice for Chelsea.”

Chelsea Poorman had been missing since September 6, 2020. She was 24 when she was reported missing and was last seen by a family member two days earlier on Granville Street.

Her family organized a vigil walk to raise awareness about her disappearance in March 2021 and offered a $10,000 reward for any information that would lead to her location.

With files from Elana Shepert/Vancouver is Awesome